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April 29, 2004

City postpones summit after accessibility complaints

From: Topeka Capital Journal, KS - Apr 29, 2004

By Tim Carpenter
The Capital-Journal

A fair-housing summit organized by the city was postponed today after deaf and blind participants complained about lack of accommodations for their disabilities.

Several people at the conference hosted by the Topeka Human Relations Commission objected to lack of a sign-language interpreter and availability of Braille materials at the "Keepers of the Dream Fair Housing Summit 2004" at the downtown Ramada Inn.

The commission failed to fulfill its responsibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Carolyn Hans, of Topeka.

"They always say the same thing, 'We'll do better next year,'" said Hans, who is deaf. "I did complain last year and still they did not provide. It's ADA law. It's not fair."

Robert Bugg, interim director of the city human relations commission, decided to postpone the summit.

He said it would not have been possible to meet the needs of the 100 people who were in attendance.

"It's an oversight on our part," Bugg said. "We were so anxious to get all of this together ... but probably one of the most important groups that is discriminated against on a daily basis we overlooked."

The commission is responsible for investigating complaints of discrimination in Topeka, he said.

"It makes it even worse because we are one of the enforcement-type agencies that say, 'You can't do that.'"

No date was set for rescheduling the summit, which was to include presentations on reasonable housing accommodations under ADA and responsibilities of tenants and landlords in housing.

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